Retail brands are getting left behind by failing to bridge the online and offline customer experience. In this article, we look at how to localise your omnichannel campaigns, make sure customers know where and when to find you, and drive in-store visits from search using the likes of Performance Max, local inventory ads and Smart Bidding.
The modern customer journey incorporates more channels every year. This brings new opportunities but it also opens up new gaps for potential customers to slip through and discover rival brands. To keep prospects moving in the right direction, you have to incorporate the right mix of omnichannel campaigns and this is particularly challenging for companies that sell both online and offline.
If an integrated online and offline customer experience sounds like the future, you’re already behind. Insights from Google and Ipsos in 2022 found that 60% of shoppers who plan to buy in-store seek out online information first.
“60% of consumers in the UK like to visit stores to see or touch products even if they plan to buy online, which is higher compared to last year.” – Expand omnichannel sales
UK consumers aren’t only moving between online channels as they shop online; they’re already bridging the gap between online and offline interactions. The problem for companies is, shoppers are bridging this gap with the first business that meets their needs. So, unless you integrate the online and offline experience from the earliest stages of the consumer journey, your hard-earned leads are just as likely to walk into a competitor’s store.
The customer journey starts with inspiration and this is where your omnichannel strategy also needs to begin. Increasingly, this inspiration is sparked online with 48% of consumers worldwide saying they get inspiration for purchases when they are online.
The key is knowing where your customers find inspiration and the list of online channels is constantly growing.
You’ll find plenty of stats and charts showing the most popular sources of purchase inspiration but generic insights will only get you so far. You need to know where your target audience is getting their purchase inspiration from.
You want to get as specific as possible with your analysis, too. Chances are social media is an important channel for sparking inspiration in your target audiences, but what networks are they using most and what types of content, post formats, accounts, etc. inspire them?
If you don’t know what’s inspiring your target customers, it’s certainly not you.
If you’re looking to drive online leads into foot traffic at physical stores, use location targeting in your campaigns to reach people in the relevant areas. Most advertising platforms allow you to target specific audiences or exclude them in your campaigns.
In Google Ads, you can target users in specific countries, areas within selected countries and a set radius around locations. Likewise, Meta offers similar location targeting options, which you can combine with a wide range of other targeting settings for Facebook and Instagram campaigns.
Whichever channels you’re using to reach audiences in specific locations, make sure you’re familiar with all of the targeting settings at your disposal. If you’re targeting audiences in multiple locations, delve into your location data to see which products are most in-demand, when search demand is highest, how online vs offline sales volumes fluctuate, etc.
These insights will help you promote the products each location audience is most interested in, show ads when they’ll have the strongest impact and know when to shift goals from online sales to driving in-store visits – and plenty more.
Finally, keep tabs on new channels because new opportunities are always emerging. Your next big campaign could be on ad-supported subscriptions from services like Netflix, Disney+, etc. or whatever the world’s next favourite social media app will be.
With your online channels inspiring target audiences close to your business locations, you need to make sure they can find you when it matters. For online sales, you might prioritise your website and marketplaces like Amazon or delivery apps like Deliveroo, depending on the nature of your business.
When it comes to turning online searches into foot traffic, Google Business Profile is the key platform for most companies.
Creating a Business Profile is easy but optimising it to maximise discoverability and drive customers to your door is much harder.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
Business Profile supports a wide range of conversion types, including quotes, bookings, orders and plenty more – make use of them.
We’ve got plenty more resources to help you get the most out of your Google Business Profile:
Your Google Business Profile can do plenty of heavy lifting when it comes to driving in-store visits from search. However, Google has also launched some powerful advertising features in recent years to capture visits that might, otherwise, head elsewhere.
Performance Max campaigns for store goals can help you drive more store visits by giving potential customers the information they need to decide when and how to hit the shops. This automated campaign format uses AI to promote your stores to relevant audiences across multiple Google channels, including Search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail and the Display Network.
This is one of the fastest ways to build an omnichannel presence on Google platforms and turn online interactions into store visits.
Google launched local inventory ads all the way back in 2013 and they’re still one of the most effective ad formats for retailers. Basically, the ad format shows potential customers which products you have in stock at specific stores so they know you’re going to have what they’re looking for when they pay a visit.
This is a huge driver for in-store visits because nobody wants to turn up, expecting to find a specific product, only to find out you don’t have it in stock.
Google lists the following key benefits of using local inventory ads:
Quite simply, customers want to know you can provide what they’re looking for within a reasonable distance. With a complete Google Business Profile, they should know exactly where you are and when you’re open. And, with local inventory ads, they can even check that you’ve got the specific product they want, in stock and ready for them.
Google Ads also includes dedicated bidding features to help you optimise for store visits and store sales. Smart Bidding for store visits optimises for actions linked to store visits like clicks on “directions” and “calls,” which is ideal if you want to drive more foot traffic during quieter times or if sales aren’t the only reason you want customers paying a visit.
Building on the success of automated bidding for store visits, Google has since launched Smart Bidding for store sales. This particular feature automatically optimises your bids for in-store conversions, allowing you to prioritise conversion counts and conversion values independently.
Using millions of data points from real customers, these bidding settings automatically increase bids to target users most likely to visit your store or make a purchase when they get there.
Google has found retailers can increase offline sales by 20% and return on ad spend (ROAS) by 30% using ad campaigns to bridge online search with in-store visits and purchases.
Marketers have been talking about omnichannel experiences and bridging the online-offline gap for a long time now. Unfortunately, too many businesses are falling behind as customers find their own paths between online channels and in-store purchases – and vice versa.
Brands can’t sit back and allow potential customers to walk into rivals’ stores or view products in theirs, only to buy from somewhere else online. If your customers are slipping between the online-offline gaps in the consumer journey, our team can help.
If you’d like help with your PPC campaigns, or wider search marketing strategy, call us on 02392 830281 to discuss your options or send us your details and we’ll get back to you.
Chris is Managing Director at Vertical Leap and has over 25 years' experience in sales and marketing. He is a keynote speaker and frequent blogger, with a particular interest in intelligent automation and data analytics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and is a stage manager at the Victorious Festival.
Looking for evidence-led search marketing expertise?
Categories: Data & Analytics, PPC